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How to tell if your dog is overheating

How to Tell if Your Dog is Overheated And What To Do About It

Disclaimer: Our content is always reviewed and approved by a professional veterinarian. However, we recommend always reaching out to your dog's vet for any advice regarding your pup.

Ah, the dog days of summer! Dogs love the summer as much as we do, and we love seeing our furry friends thrive in the sunshine as they swim, run, hike, and relax.

But that summer heat is no joke, and it’s important to be prepared for a heat emergency as it can escalate quickly and be extremely dangerous for your dog.

And if you don’t know what to do, don’t worry! Stick with us because we’ll be going through what causes your dog to overheat and the steps you should take if your furry friend finds himself in a heat emergency.

What Causes a Dog to Overheat?

To understand how dogs overheat, it’s important to know how they regulate themselves.

Let’s think about it for a second. How do we regulate our body temperature?

We sweat! So is it the same for dogs?

No, actually dogs don’t sweat. Or they do, but it’s only from their footpads which is not nearly enough. So how do dogs regulate themselves?

Enter: panting! Panting is how dogs regulate themselves, essentially trading hot air for cool air. It’s totally normal and healthy to see dogs panting after exercise and while outdoors, especially in the heat. When the panting becomes excessive, though, that’s when something is off.

Now, between 37 – 39 degrees Celsius is considered an ideal or “normal” body temperature for dogs.

When a dog’s body temperature rises above its normal values, and the dog can’t regulate himself due to excessive heat, overheating can occur.

And while overheating tends to be a result of hot temperatures, other factors may contribute to this issue:

  • Type of dog and dog age: While overheating can certainly happen to any dog breed, it may be more likely in breeds with long fur and short noses. Both puppies and elderly dogs are at a higher risk.
  • Fitness and weight: Dogs in poor physical shape often exert more energy, which can be dangerous when heat is an added factor. For that reason, obese and overweight dogs tend to struggle more with the heat.
  • Access to water: Limited access or not drinking enough water can lead to overheating and dehydration.
  • Health issues: Dogs that already live with health issues are at an increased risk.
  • Dog’s adaptability: Dogs can struggle to adjust to new temperatures, climates, and environments. Going on a trip to a much hotter climate is a good example of this.

What Are the Signs of an Overheated Dog?

Overheating can lead to heatstroke, dehydration, and other serious issues. Unfortunately, it can be life-threatening.

A dog is considered dangerously overheated if his temperature rises above 40°C. The only way you can avoid this is to learn the signs that your dog is overheating!

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Unresponsiveness: This can be an early sign of overheating. This may look different in every dog, but it could look something like your pup not listening to commands, wandering around aimlessly, or just completely ignoring you;
  • High Stress: High stress, frantic, rapid or shortness of breath;
  • Excessive Drooling: Lots of drool that’s thicker than usual;
  • Unusual Gums: Red, grey, or purple gums can also be a sign of overheating;
  • Excessive Panting: As we’ve seen, this is one of the clearer signs of overheating;
  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea: This is one of the most common signs of overheating. But as with many other symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea can be a sign of many different conditions and not just overheating;
  • Fast Heartbeat: A fast heartbeat can occur in different situations. After a dog exercises, for example, his heartbeat will naturally be accelerated. But a fast heartbeat combined with these other symptoms can be a sign of overheating, at least initially. Once the body reaches even higher temperatures, the heartbeat will actually start to slow down, along with the blood pressure;
  • Dehydration: This can cause your dog to have sunken eyes, dry mouth, gums, and nose.

If you see these signs and it’s a hot day, you have to act right away! If the heat exposure isn’t dealt with immediately, your dog will be at risk of going into shock.

What To Do If Your Dog Overheats

If your pup does overheat, what you should do depends on his state.

If he’s in the initial stages of overheating, it’s best to treat him at home first before taking him to the vet. That’s because a car ride on a hot day will only worsen the situation.

Besides, since this is an issue that has to be dealt with right away, taking your dog to the vet may take too long and have negative consequences.

So here’s what you can do to cool down your dog at home:

1. Move your dog out of the heat and into a well-shaded area or an air-conditioned space. Make sure to keep the blinds down to avoid sunlight.

2. Never administer cold/ice water to your dog! This can be dangerous and cause him to go into shock. Instead, cover your dog with wet towels and keep changing up the towels as they heat up.

3. Place your pup near a cool fan.

4. Have your dog’s water bowl full and accessible, but never force him to drink.

5. If you can, take your pup’s temperature and keep track of it.

6. Finally, take your furry friend to your vet. While in transit, keep the windows down and/or air conditioning on.

However, if you find your dog in a severe case of overheating and he’s collapsed or even convulsing, you need to take him to the vet right away! You can’t waste any time here.

Once at the clinic, your vet will focus on lowering and monitoring your dog’s body temperature to a safe level. This means controlling your pup’s hydration levels by administering fluids and oxygen if needed.

Your dog will also be monitored for shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart issues, and other potential complications.

Recovering From Overheating

Dogs can recover from overheating and heatstroke. However, it’s important to know that it can lead to long-term medical issues. The harsh reality is that heatstroke can cause heart, kidney, or neurological problems, as well as blood clots.

Ultimately, recovery will depend on how seriously the dog was impacted by the heat and dehydration. You’ll need to let your dog rest, keep him inside in a cool space, and make sure water is always available.

You should also know that once affected by heatstroke, your dog might be at a risk for developing it again. This means that you’ll need to be careful on hotter days and monitor your dog closely.

How to Prevent Overheating

As a paw parent, the best thing you can do for your dog is to prevent overheating all together.

So, when the temperature and/or humidity is high, here’s what you should do:

1. Ensure the dog has easy access to shelter and water while outdoors. If you are leaving your dog alone, make sure the air conditioning is on.

2. Limit their outdoor time and ensure you pack lots of water and know where you can find shade on adventures. Even if you’re at the beach, dogs can overheat while swimming.

3. Exercise and go for walks in the early morning or late evenings to avoid peak temperatures. Also, avoid hot concrete because it can be painful for your furry friend’s paws.

4. Groom your pup. Groomers will know the best summer style that can offer your pooch some relief from the heat.

5. Don’t leave your pet alone in a parked car, ever. In cars, heat builds extremely quickly. This is true on days that aren’t hot, either.

6. Purchase cooling products like cooling mats, cooling vests, and portable water bowls. You can also look into dog-friendly ice cream to give as a special treat, or even simpler, offer your dog ice cubes. They love them!

Keep in mind that protecting your furry friend from heatstroke is up to you! If you’re out on a fun adventure, don’t expect your dog to stop and cool down all by himself.

Dogs love having fun and sometimes don’t recognize they’re not feeling well! This is why they depend on us.

Final Thoughts

Heatstroke or overheating is very dangerous and needs to be dealt with ASAP.

The good thing is that by knowing what to do and when to do it, you can prevent overheating!

While summer can still be lots of fun, your dog should be carefully supervised with access to plenty of shade and water. Also, keep in mind that outdoor fun should be enjoyed in moderation.

Just remember that if it’s hot for you, it’s definitely way too hot for your dog!

It’s all about safe fun in the sun!

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